Women In Forestry: Valerie Payne

Valerie Payne

GIS Technician (Forest Information Services), Mosaic Forest Management


What are your responsibilities? What does your typical day look like? 

One of the things I love about my job is the variety of tasks involved. On any given day, I could be developing a map template for planners or foresters to produce the maps they need in the field. I prepare a lot of road network analysis to determine haul distances from harvest blocks to haul destinations. I create visual renderings that project what a viewscape will look like after harvest. I create a lot of “big picture” maps, including harvest plans for planners, safety folios for contractors and planting, survey and brushing overviews for our foresters. I help maintain and update our data, always working to improve its accuracy and reliability, and I support our users who create and use the information in our GIS system to do their job effectively.


How did you get your start in forestry? 

My education and background are in geography and GIS, not in forestry, but the great thing about GIS is that it can be applied to such a huge variety of industries and applications. I knew when I applied for this job that my GIS skills were just tools, and forestry has provided a fantastic opportunity to apply those tools in a so many ways. Luckily, I’ve had a lot of patient and helpful co-workers who’ve been able to educate me throughout the years and fill in some of the gaps in my forestry knowledge.


Are there any accomplishments that you are really proud of? 

I’m proudest of being able to change and adapt to new technologies in GIS and forestry over the more than 25 years that I’ve worked for Mosaic and TimberWest. GIS and spatial data management have evolved so much since I started; forestry has evolved as well, and I’ve had to evolve and adapt. We have so much more information available to us now, whether it’s Lidar imagery or live-feed GPS coordinates for the location of logging trucks, or the data analysis that possible now. We’re creating digital map packages for tablets in falling equipment in the field that will provide up-to-the-second information for users. It’s exciting to see what we can do with spatial information now that we couldn’t in the past.  Every change has been a step forward, making it easier to provide planners, engineers, and foresters with the information they need to make effective decisions and do their job successfully.


What advice would you have for other women who might be considering a career in forestry?

As someone with a background in geography, I love working with spatial information and I love making beautiful maps. Forestry has such a huge demand for geographical data management and mapping tools that it’s a great fit for my GIS skills and passion. It’s a challenging field with lots of change and technological adaptation, which keeps it interesting. There’s always variety in what I do! And the people I’ve met and worked with over the years have been great – whether they’re out in the woods or in the office like I am – I’ve had wonderful and supportive co-workers.